Sunnyside braces for uptick in teen suicide crisis during summer

Counselors are monitoring at risk students
Posted at 7:38 PM, Apr 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-30 23:04:07-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — COVID 19 has put an added strain on students and now counselors are bracing for an uptick in the teen suicide crisis.

The Sunnyside District is now working hard to stay on top of that during the summer months.

The Sunnyside District has a high poverty percentage and that they say comes with inherent at risk concerns-- physically, emotionally and financially.

The counselors are paying attention -- closely monitoring and listening to students -- who have known mential health issues.

They believe COVID-19 is cranking up the suicide knob.

Elizabeth Allen, AWARE Project Manager, says, "Right now -- it's pretty low -- maybe about 5 to 10 percent.

Cavazos: What about by the end of the summer?

Allen: I don't even want to think about that.

Cavazos: There's a strong possibility you're going to see an uptick?

Allen: Oh yeah .. uh huh.

And here's why.

Prolonged social isolation from peers -- breaks from the routine -- can exacerbate an at-risk teen's already fragile well-being.

"They don't have the same structures and systems in place that they get 5 days a week when in school. Sometimes they don't know what the day looks life," saild Dr. Leila Williams, Exceptional Education Director.

Sunnyside has already handled a couple of hospitalizations for mental health during this coronavirus crisis.

"It's not normal. It's a stressful different time, said Dr. Williams.

Equally stressful-- for middle and high school students, they say.

The counselors are urging the Sunnyside community -- especially friends -- to pay attention and let the district know when a student is struggling.

Allen says, "Even if it's -- I'm going to shoot an Instant Message -- SnapChat -- something to let another adult know 'Hey Liz is struggling today. I need you to check in with them and do a quick suicide check in'. There are enough people in our schools trained to ask the right questions and if they're aren't they will find somebody who can."

Sunnyside also stresses that people can call the district or the Suicide Hotline.

Sunnyside -- 520-545-3341

National Suicide Hotline -- 1-800-273-TALK